Tools of the Trade for WordPress Developers

No different than a contractor who uses many tools of their trade to work on projects, so do WordPress developers who are efficient and proficient. I realize when I get with other devs to talk shop that I’m not the most efficient dev with the absolute best tools, but I’m more than likely in the top 5% after years of doing this and being willing to try new tools, so I offer this as a resource to those starting out or moving into a new area of business to stay current.

What follows is a list and description of the tools that I personally use — and I mean every day. When possible, I provide a link and a price to check it out yourself. If you’re on Mac, keep in mind that you don’t get iCloud updates/sync or the App Store licensing unless you purchase it from the App Store, so only get the trial from the company site before purchasing from the App Store and look on the App Store for each one before purchasing.



Price: Free!

I do all of my browser work in Chrome now. I used to use Firefox with the Firebug extension, but now I’m all Chrome unless I need to troubleshoot a browser compatibility issue. Just right-click an element on a page and select “Inspect Element” to see all of the HTML surrounding it and the CSS that it is comprised of. It even has :hover, :focus, and :active states to see the CSS for those pseudo classes, which is incredibly useful for buttons and menus.


Sublime Text 2

Sublime Text

Price: $59 for Sublime Text 2, $30 upgrade to v.3 soon, $70 v.3 full price

I’ve had a long and sordid history with text editors. Even before I switched to Mac, I’d found Notepad ++ for Windows and I guess I didn’t notice the downgrade when I just dove in using the included Text Edit for OS X. Then I found Text Wranger (made by the same company as BBEdit, which is way more powerful), which was my first editor with syntax highlighting. An update to that app ruined it for me, so I bought skEdit as a part of a bundle and loved it… until someone on Twitter pestered me for not using Sublime Text 2 when I complained about something skEdit doesn’t do.

Sublime Text 2 is coming to an end as the reigning version this year, as registered users are now beta testing v.3 and the purchase + upgrade price is more than the purchase price of  v.3 will be, so I’m still using the fully-functioning trial version (with a nag every 50-ish saves). It’s got incredibly powerful tools, including auto-complete from snippets in your library, functions or classes already in the file, the ability to select entire columns to add characters or words, boilerplate templates to create entire chunks or files and then let you fill in the missing pieces, and MUCH more. Here’s a free video tutorial series that really shows off its power.

(others: CodaVim, and Smultron)


Transmit 4

Price: $33.99

Hands down, Transmit 4 is the best file transfer client for Mac and is made by the same company as Coda, which is the main competitor of BBEdit, combining FTP and text editor. The current version is Transmit 4, but the next time they release an upgrade, I’m purchasing it from the App Store for iCloud favorites syncing — I’d like to take Dropbox out of the loop. The speed is wicked, organizing sites into folders, tabs for active instances, and the ability to preserve file dates when uploading are all crucial to how an efficient dev operates. This is one I’d recommend purchasing from the App Store without hesitation.



Price: FREE or $45/yr

I don’t think anyone has gone this long without hearing of Evernote, but there are a ton of people who don’t use it nearly to its potential. It’s the most cross-platform productivity app on the market and you can use it for great results just with the free account. I’ve upgraded to premium so I have access to notes on my tablet when I’m not in wi-fi zones. Michael Hyatt has an excellent tutorial and many posts on using it for just about everything.

I’ve connected it to Chrome with the clipper extension to clip URLs, entire pages, page content columns, and even PDFs. Everything you clip can be searched when you’re in Chrome — it puts the results in the right column so you know if you’ve already found what you’re looking for. Notes can be shared and distributed and with Hello, Skitch, and Penultimate as powerful sister apps, it’s the most versatile productivity tool anywhere.

Adobe Creative Suite (5.5, but 6 is the latest)

Creative Suite

Price: varies – $20/mo single app, $49.99/mo suite, $29.99/mo upgrade suite, $1,899 for non-subscription

Admittedly, this isn’t absolutely necessary for a developer because not all devs do graphics or images, but I do and not a day of active design-to-theme work goes by that I don’t use it for some image. I have the Design Premium boxed set, but you can also do monthly or annual subscriptions just for the apps you need. Each one comes with an available 30-day trial.